Struck By Lightning, by Dr. Gloria Polo, the incredible account of a dentist from Colombia who went to hell after being struck by lightning in 1995 -- and came back with astounding insights into sin, Confession, Mass, the afterlife, the power of intercessory prayer, parenthood, immorality, and what we need to do to make sure that our eternity is a pleasant one.  CLICK HERE



It keeps rolling on: the implications, the signs, the symbols.

There was the lightning.

This is something that has always carried a spiritual connotation. Satan was seen (by Jesus) as falling like a bolt (Luke 10:18), and the meteorological phenomenon always has seemed a bit spooky -- the backdrop for countless suspense movies, for hauntings, a time during which the spiritual seems energized.

On February 11, 2013, it struck St. Peter's Basilica, twice.

It was just hours (around six p.m. Rome local time) after news broke that Benedict XVI was nearly immediately leaving the papacy.

The world was,  yes, "thunderstruck."

We have seen it ourselves -- usually at times of decision or danger, sometimes appearing to indicate the presence of evil, other moments emphasizing some act within the Church. It was thunder that was heard during the apparitions at Lourdes (which were commemorated Monday -- the day of the Pope's announcement). It was thunder and a flash of lightning that introduced the Blessed Mother's first appearance at Fatima in 1917.

Affirming -- or an attack from the devil?

It seems it can be either, or none of the above. There are simple charges of atmospheric electricity.

At the same time, Fatima was also preceded the night before by a vicious storm. The same occurred in the hamlet of Medjugorje, when the night before Mary's first reported apparition lightning struck with such force (damaging the village's post office and first disco) that villagers rushed to the streets to sprinkle Holy Water the night before those reputed apparitions. We encountered unforgettable thunder on the mountain of LaSalette in France (where Mary appeared in 1846) as well as in Medjugorje (where lightning was so bright it even came through the shuttered windows). In Toronto, an incredible lightning bolt was once photographed hitting a cemetery dedicated to St. Michael.

During filming of "The Passion of the Christ," lightning struck the set three times, hitting a production assistant twice and the actor playing Jesus as he was preparing to do the Sermon on the Mount.

It was a flash of light -- whether "lightning-like" or otherwise -- that converted Saul. A number of famous near-death experiences occurred due to strikes of lightning (one book is even entitled such, see at top). During presidential primary debates in 2008 lightning interrupted a "Catholic" candidate as he disputed a bishop's admonishment about abortion.

It illuminates. It gets our attention. It threatens. It accents.

If nothing else, it seems like an exclamation point -- for good or bad, indicating some kind of spiritual movement. Was it God's way of approving or disapproving recent matters at the Vatican? Was it indicating dangers there? Was it trying to illuminate something hidden? Was the Lord simply reaffirming the Pope's decision? Is not the great cliché: God "hurling lightning bolts"?

A hoax? Well, anything is possible. Experts believe it's real. It was taken by a legitimate professional Agence France Press news photographer. What's a bit spooky, said one meteorologist,, Jesse Ferrell, is "that it doesn't appear from a Google Image Search that a similar image has ever been captured before...."

This week, as Pope Benedict XVI shocked the word with his resignation, there were flashes of light. There was thunder. Was it a positive or negative sign?

"In the words of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the announcement was met by the cardinals with 'almost disbelief,' 'with a sense of bewilderment' and 'like a lightning bolt from the serene heavens' – which indeed happened," points out a priest named Father Joseph L. Iannuzzi who is often in Rome. "Just as lightning struck the cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica at the proclamation of papal infallibility by Pope Pius IX on July 18, 1870, so it happened again at the proclamation of Pope Benedict XVI’s statement. Some speculate that if divine intervention in lightning bolt fashion was God’s powerful way of confirming Pope Pius IX’s infallible declaration, why may it not also be God’s way of confirming Pope Benedict XVI’s statement? Let us recall that Pope Pius IX’s declaration of Mary’s Immaculate Conception on December 8, 1854, was confirmed by Mary to St. Bernadette Soubirous on March 25, 1858 'with a dazzling light.' These are the exact words of Bernadette when describing Mary’s apparition to her: "She came with a dazzling light." So, when a Pope makes an important statement it is not unusual for God or Mary to confirm it with a manifestation of light!"

Still, when there is lightning, there is something about it that seems unsettling and sometimes as a warning. Many things are astir. A Pope is "resigning" for the first time in six centuries -- a Pope who took the name "Benedict," as in the saint who battled evil. In a letter on the same February 11, 2013, naming a special envoy to a solemn celebration of the World Day of the Sick, Benedict included the term "Mary, mediatrix of all graces" -- a title that is used very sparingly by pontiffs and is often attached in the minds of many Catholic faithful with potential declaration of a new dogma, one that they feel would herald major events in the world (a dogma that, up to now, Benedict has long resisted, and may still; we do not yet know). It comes when astronomers expect to see a highly visible comet, which may even appear during the conclave announcing a new Pope. Some believe the next Pope will be the last in this particular era. Time will tell. Thunder. Lightning. Through the Old Testament, it is an indication of His awesome Presence, as on the holy mountain. And in the New Testament: "For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be" (Luke 17:14). In Revelation it is tied to great events in nature.

[resources: Lenten books, Michael Brown retreats, Seattle, Portland, Medjugorje pilgrimage: purification, future, self-illumination]

[see also: Video of Vatican lightning strike]

[Feedback: "We need to relevantly address issues and the credibility of our own ministry and leadership," said Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana. "The Church, if you adopt the imagery of a boat, is going through quite a bit of a storm and it does not appear to be over yet," he said. Interesting he uses the boat imagery which is similar to St. John Bosco`s imagery of the Pope on the ship anchored to Our Lord in the Eucharist and our Lady, surrounded by enemies on rough seas! Not to mention the Papal prophesies of St. Malachy and 'Peter the Roman.' We live in extraordinary times and signs are all around us! Just some observations. God bless us all during this times of change and upheaval. Prayerfully, Bill Whitecavage, Ringtown, Pennsylvania."]

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